Local dispensaries plan to start selling retail pot on Jan. 1

By Collin McRann
Staff reporter
Published: Friday, December 27, 2013 6:07 AM CST

No one knows how many people will queue up to buy retail marijuana when it becomes available across Colorado on Wednesday, but one thing is certain: Telluride’s shops will be open for business.

All three of the town’s marijuana dispensaries plan to open their doors to those 21 and older on Wednesday (Jan. 1) for retail sales, and are bracing for big crowds. It will be the first time in history that fully taxed and regulated marijuana will be available to the general public. And as any state dispensary owner will testify, Colorado’s marijuana industry is heavily regulated. As of Thursday, dispensary owners were working to finish the many regulatory hoops that they had to jump through to sell retail pot.

“Yes, it’s been one of those paper-pushing nightmares,” said Adam Raleigh, owner of Telluride Bud Company. “But it’s going to be a bum rush, it’s going to be a novelty. I’ve got emails this last week from people driving in from California, Utah, Arizona, Wyoming and you know, New Mexico — coming in just to be here for Jan. 1, to be a part of history.”

Over the past several months, local dispensary owners have been working through the hurdles necessary to sell retail marijuana and fielding hundreds of phone calls from potential customers. Greg Viditz-Ward, owner of the Green Room, said he has been getting all types of inquiries about what will be on sale on Wednesday and how much there will be.

“We’re just in total chaos mode right now,” Viditz-Ward said. “I don’t know if the first is going to be our biggest day, but I think we’re going to have a lot of people here. Being that we’ve never done this before, it’s hard to say. We probably get a dozen people calling in daily from all over the country saying they are booking their trip. And I hear the hotel bookings are up, so that’s good.”

Beginning on Jan. 1, the state will allow retail shops to be open from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. (Only existing medical marijuana dispensary owners in the state were allowed to transition to pot shops by the Jan. 1 date, though they had to do so under state and local rules. New retail establishments are expected to open later in 2014.)

Locally, all three of Telluride’s dispensaries are making the transition. Though each dispensary has its own schedule, all plan to be open by mid morning on Wednesday.

“I guess right now we’re super excited to be a part of it,” said Mike Grady, co-owner of Alpine Wellness

Officials in Telluride say they have seen a great deal of interest in retail marijuana from outside media outlets and others across the country, and they expect the transition to occur smoothly. The Telluride Town Council passed local retail marijuana regulations in September.

“We expect business as usual,” said Telluride Town Manager Greg Clifton. “The dispensaries have operated here without a lot of issues, and I don’t think a lot is going to change.”

Raleigh said Telluride has made it easier for dispensaries to do business by setting up many of its own regulatory rules rather than deferring to state rules. As a result, he said, he has had to deal less with authorities in Denver, which has made the process easier.

However, Grady said, the process hasn’t been a simple one.

“We’ve had to renew all of our medical marijuana licensing in addition to applying for all new retail marijuana licensing,” Grady said. “So between local jurisdiction and state we’ve filled out 12 different applications and paid for them, and we had to go interview in Denver. But we are ready to go on Wednesday — everybody gets to turn 21 again.”

As of Thursday, local dispensaries were in the process of determining what they will charge for retail marijuana strains when they go on sale. Prices will likely be more expensive than medical marijuana due to the higher taxes. Each dispensary will have a variety of strains available at different prices. All of the marijuana sold in Telluride has been grown in the area.

The passage of Amendment 64 in November of 2012 made it legal for adults 21 and older in Colorado to possess up to 1 ounce of marijuana, but the implementation of retail pot shops has been delayed as the state drafted rules for exactly how recreational pot should be grown and sold.

Retail taxes were implemented in the form of another ballot measure, Proposition AA, which passed this November. With the tax in place, retail marijuana sales will be subject to a roughly 25 percent on sales and wholesale taxes, which is why retail will be more expensive than medical.

In September, the Town of Telluride and San Miguel County both opted to allow retail sales, while the Town of Norwood banned them and Mountain Village placed a moratorium on sales until its town council has time to review all of its options.

Mountain Village will likely decide if it will allow sales or not within the next couple of months, and if it does, it will join Telluride as being among the only towns in rural Colorado to do so.